Thaayi Saheba

Brilliant National award winning Kannada movie “Thaayi Saheba” (1997) directed by Girish Kasaravalli.

The story starts from just before independence of a rich zamindar family. Appa Sahib the head of the family is a freedom fighter and has gone to jail several times. His wife Narmada Thayi is the silent sufferer in the household dominated by male patriarchy. She has no say nor is consulted in any household matters. She is Appa Sahib’s second wife and he has another wife, the third one with whom he begets two children.

Narmada Thayi has no children so Appa Sahib decides to adopt a relative’s son. The adoption is the brainchild of Venkoba Anna who has plans that his son will inherit all the zamindar’s riches. Meanwhile what happens is that the Government of India, now independent, abolishes zamindari system so all the farmers who till the land will get the land titles in their name.

Appa Sahib is an idealist so he decides to give away the land to the farmers while Venkoba opposes it, seeing it as diminishing the property value for his son. Meanwhile, the son is now in love with his step sister and wants to marry her much to the chagrin of Narmada Thayi. He despises the zamindari system and starts working in a jaggery shop as a middleman.

Appa Sahib is arrested for being a communist and Narmada Thayi and the third wife walk out of the manor to find out which jail he is lodged in. They do not find his records anywhere. Narmada Thayi wants to end the legacy with her. The legacy of rich men having more than one wives as concubines, begetting illegitimate children, the legacy of not having any say in any household matters.

So she decides to liberate her son from the clutches of the family legacy so that he can go and be happily married with his step sister. They seek a legal way out by annulling the adoption or some such thing. There are falsities involved in it, for which she could go to jail.

Brilliant movie by Girish Kasaravalli on a very socially relevant theme and this is something which not many film makers have dwelt upon – the patriarchal system of rich men marrying as much as they can and women suffering silently in the background. Its a strong woman centric movie with Narmada Thayi shown as somebody who speaks for women in such situations. The central theme of the movie is that she wants to liberate herself and other women in such situations. There is a very poignant scene when she moves out of her manor on foot for the first time in order to find her husband in the jail.

This film got the national award for the best feature film.

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